Health Minister Kim Wilson has stated unequivocally that “there are no passengers or crew on the Anthem of the Seas who are suspected of having the Coronavirus”.
Speaking at a news conference on Monday (February 10), she said: “The ship does not pose any risk different from any vessel arriving to Bermuda at any other time.”
This after the recent scare over the possibility that it was the deadly virus on board caused the cruise ship to be detained at port in Bayonne, New Jersey this past weekend.
All four passengers on board who had fallen ill subsequently tested negative for the deadly virus.
The decision to reroute the cruise ship to Bermuda, was a “logistical” decision taken by the cruise line, to “provide a better experience for passengers whose cruise time was shortened” by its delayed departure.
“Insofar as to whether it was diverted because other countries to the south refused entry, that information has not been passed to us,” the Minister added.
Senior Environmental Health Officer, Armell Thomas also responded to concerns raised in a voice note circulated via social media regarding the transportation of cruise ship passengers on board this cruise.
“They were very concerned because they are on the front line — they are satisfied at this time,” he said.
On the possibility of the virus being imported to the island via our ports of entry, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Cheryl Peek-Ball said people “will know almost as soon as we know”.
“We are not in the business of keeping back information about public safety,” she said.
“Information that comes in to us has to be verified and digested before it is sent out. It’s very important that social media not get ahead of the actual facts and evidence.”
But despite measures being taken at airports in other regions, including our next door neighbours in the US, she conceded that screening in ports or at the airport required people to volunteer information about their travel patterns and possible exposure.
“We have to accept we are relying on people to be open and transparent with us,” she said.
“The fact is, it appears that until you’re having symptoms, until you start getting sick, you do not pose a risk to others.”
Travellers arriving in Bermuda will undergo a travel risk assessment by a health officer, and could have their health monitored and movement on island restricted for up to 14 days.
Unlike other jurisdictions – no immediate restriction areas were named or designated by local health officials, should a case of coronavirus end up in Bermuda.
In closing, the Minister added: “To further ensure the safety of Bermuda, as is always the case, health and port authorities will continue to apply careful control protocols at all of Bermuda’s points of entry.
“Again please let me reiterate, protecting the health of Bermuda’s residents is the Government’s top priority. This includes taking steps, steps which are internationally accepted, in better ensuring protection of the public from serious health risks including the novel coronavirus.”
Dr Peek-Ball noted that the Ministry of Health “is working closely with stakeholders from different disciplines and sectors of society to plan and prepare for the global risk presented by coronavirus”.
On that note she said: “The public should know that there are officers at all ports of entry to assist with managing the situation and port officials are in continuous communication with the Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit [ESU]. Additionally, Bermuda’s routine public health surveillance activities have been increased over recent weeks through the well-established collaborations between the ESU and the hospital, physician offices and other health stakeholders. Enhanced monitoring of patients presenting with respiratory illnesses will continue, guided by recommendations from the World Health Organization [WHO], and our regional authorities, Pan American Health Organization [PAHO] and Caribbean Public Health Agency [CARPHA].
“Furthermore, the Bermuda Government has put a restriction on direct flights from China which applies to private/corporate aircrafts. Additionally, any visitors that have spent any time in mainland China in the last 14 days are discouraged from travelling to Bermuda and will be subject to risk assessment and necessary monitoring and restrictions.
“I can confirm that there are no cases or known suspect cases of the coronavirus in Bermuda,” she added.
“To be classified as a “suspect case”, the World Health Organization [WHO] has defined specific criteria that an individual must have. This includes a relevant travel history risk or contact risk.
“It should be noted that the situation is extremely dynamic so the Ministry of Health is in continuous liaison with international public health agencies to address the evolving situation,” she added.
“If a case of coronavirus is confirmed in Bermuda, contact tracing will begin immediately and relevant individuals will be contacted by Ministry of Health staff.
“Any situation posing a risk to the safety of the general public will be communicated through official Ministry of Health channels.”
Local health updates can be found here.